Katie Kelly: “Never Give Up”

My life motto is Never Give Up. It’s something my mom has said to me since I can remember. Like I said, it is really hard with the constant rejection. Especially when you ‘almost’ get the part… over and over again. There have been projects I was extremely passionate about and I didn’t book the […]

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My life motto is Never Give Up. It’s something my mom has said to me since I can remember. Like I said, it is really hard with the constant rejection. Especially when you ‘almost’ get the part… over and over again. There have been projects I was extremely passionate about and I didn’t book the role, even when I totally thought that I would.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Katie Kelly.

Originally from Arlington, Texas, Katie Kelly began her acting career in 2010, graduating high school early and moving to Los Angeles to immerse herself in the industry she loves. Katie made her TV debut playing the role of young Jesse on NBC’s highly anticipated prime-time drama series Game of Silence, written and produced by David Hudgins (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood). Katie also co-starred in the faith-based film A Gift Horse opposite John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard) and had a lead role in How to Be a Princess on Awesomeness TV. Katie has also appeared in numerous television commercials and print ads. As an actress, Katie strives to develop characters that will make a strong impact on the audience. Her ultimate goal is to make the world a better place through the power of artistic performance.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to talk to y’all today! Well, I started in the industry by modeling when I was in kindergarten. I remember my Computer Lab teacher recommended me to a local agent in Dallas when I was 6. I started modeling for a western wear company called Pan Handle Slim and that organically led to me embarking on my film career. But, I like to joke around and tell people I’m only an actress because my mom was tired of going to sporting events after she raised my three older brothers.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Oh, man. I’ve had so many incredibly interesting experiences on various sets. Especially on extremely low budget projects — I mean, passion projects. Indie films are my favorite because everyone is just trying their hardest with what they have. Something that I think is really interesting is on the set of my film Sno Babies there came a time where it called for my character to give birth. I know you’re probably thinking something like “oh wow! That might be tough to nail giving birth if you never lived that experience before!” And I’m here to tell you, it was. But you know would made it tougher? The fact that it was in the forest, at midnight, in the dead of Philly winter and I was only wearing a cotton t-shirt while doing it. Oh, did I mention my character was high on heroine too? I think it’s pretty interesting that special FX covered me in white pudding and mayo (as well as fake sweat and blood) to look like the afterbirth. I never would have guessed!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh my goodness. So many funny stories rush to my mind. Obviously, in order to succeed one must be willing to fail. Making mistakes and failing is absolutely necessary to become a great actor. I have made many mistakes in my career which has resulted in gaining a lot of knowledge. I’ve bombed my fair share of auditions. I literally still have nightmares about when I straight up started sobbing mid audition because I had forgotten one of my lines. It was being recorded, too. Absolutely devastating for 13 year old me. But, I think the biggest ‘oopsie’ that I’ve made is forgetting I was mic’ed up on set. My face literally gets red thinking about it. I had been talking to one of my costars about how cute I thought someone on set was and a PA had to come over to me and tell me that everything I just said was heard by the entire crew. I definitely learned to ask sound to mute my mic between shots with that one!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m so grateful to have been a part of some phenomenal projects. One of my favorite projects to work on was NBC’s Game of Silence. Such an incredible experience where I made lifelong friends on that set. But, I would say the most exciting project I’ve worked on to date would be Sno Babies. Sno Babies is an indie feature film that I shot back in 2018. It follows Kristen McKusker, a college bound 16 year old honor student who is also battling a heroin addiction. Playing Kristen was so challenging yet so rewarding. As a young actress it is important to me that with the roles that I take on, I am not only challenging myself creatively but also helping make a difference in the lives of others. Sno Babies was so fulfilling for me as an actress. Sno Babies tackles the grim realities of addiction, rape, strained relationships and more. It is currently available on Amazon Prime. Every stream goes towards funding recovery programs and the Global Recovery Initiative.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really awesome people along the way. I’ve been able to work with some really cool directors like Niels Arden Oplev and Craig Goldstein. I’ve worked with some really cool actors like Curran Walters and Michel Lombardi. Out of all of the people I’ve worked with though, I’ve found a special connection to the director of Sno Babies, Bridget Smith. Bridget has given me so much knowledge on the film industry and how to navigate it as a young woman. It’s really cool that my job allows me to make these special connections that I will cherish forever. That’s something I absolutely love about this industry.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I wish I could have an entire TED talk dedicated to this question. There’s so much advice I would give to other creatives in this industry. Especially the young women. I think one of the hardest things though about being in the industry in the constant rejection. You really have to give into this process and trust it fully. I’ve been acting for 12 years… do you know how many auditions I’ve been on? At least 1,000. Do you know how many projects I’ve worked on? Nowhere near that. You have to have patience and know that it’s not a question of ‘if’ you will be successful but rather ‘when’ you will be successful. There’s this amazing quote by Sandra Kring that I refer to often. It reads “Unless they can look into the core of your heart, and see the degree of your passion, or look into the depths of your soul and see the extent of your will, then they have no business telling you what you can or cannot achieve. While they may know the odds, they do not know you. Nor do they know the power of your angels.” My motto has always been Never Give Up and that would be my advice to anyone who decides to take on the journey of acting.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

Sure! I think that self-care is extremely important for everyone, especially with how things are right now. There’s so much isolation with the pandemic and I know a lot of people are starting to feel the distance. Not only socially but physically. Self-care looks different for everybody. It’s important to just check in with yourself. Ask yourself how you’re feeling. As an actor, it’s always important to make sure you’re in touch with yourself emotionally. I would encourage everyone to stay learning during this time. Maybe pick up a book like Audition by Michael Shurtleff or take time to watch some movies. You know all those ones you keep saying “Ugh! I need to see that?” Well, now is the time. The awesome thing about the film industry is that there’s really so much to learn. So much goes into making a movie. You can never know too much about your craft!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

ITS EXPENSIVE and time consuming! Nobody tells you that before you start. The classes, workshops, scene studies, self-tapes, and headshots really add up financially. Not to mention the fact that you have to commit to hours and hours of time for working on and traveling to auditions. Growing up in Texas I was submitting all of my auditions on self-tape. Every time I got a casting call back we would have to book a flight from Dallas to LA. Typically casting gives only gives you a couple of days notice. Luckily, my mom has believed in me my entire life and has been nothing but supportive. There were times we couldn’t even afford a flight so my mom would drive us from Dallas to Los Angeles. I would get ready in a Starbucks bathroom after my mom drove for 24 hours straight. All for a 15 minute call back that I inevitably wouldn’t book because I was too young, or too short or whatever the polite way to say ‘No, you didn’t book this one either’ is in a casting director’s mind. There’s honestly so many things somebody could have told me before I started pursuing a film career but in my opinion personal experience is the best teacher and I’ve learned a lot over the years!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I touched on this a little bit earlier when we spoke about advice I would give to those who are interested in starting a career in the film industry. My life motto is Never Give Up. It’s something my mom has said to me since I can remember. Like I said, it is really hard with the constant rejection. Especially when you ‘almost’ get the part… over and over again. There have been projects I was extremely passionate about and I didn’t book the role, even when I totally thought that I would. One time I was in this director’s session for this project that I was totally in love with. I had been through the first few rounds of auditions and it had come down to the final girls. The scene for the session was literally the climax of the film, so I was already pretty nervous. I was in the waiting room with 2 other girls (who looked exactly like me) and they called my name. I followed the assistant back into the room and I’m not kidding, it was JAM packed with people. The writer, director, producers, network executives were all there. Not to mention the assistants, camera operator and reader. There had to of been at least 15 people. I was definitely not expecting that at all. I will literally never forget that when the scene (where the character was convincing her boyfriend to not jump off a bridge) ended, the director stood up, started clapping and yelled “GIRL ON FIRE! WOW! INCREDIBLE!. Guess what? I still didn’t book it. Never Give Up!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

They say behind every successful women there’s a tribe of other successful women who have her back. I’m not totally sure about the tribe thing, but I have my mom. And she has definitely supported me just as much, if not more, than an entire tribe could. Like I said earlier, there were times my mom would drive us to LA from Dallas in her two door Honda Civic because we couldn’t afford plane tickets. There were times we couldn’t afford a hotel so we slept on the floors of LAX. My mom and I have sacrificed a lot throughout our lives to try and make this lifelong dream come true. If she wouldn’t have believed in me so much I probably wouldn’t be acting right now. My mom took on the financial burden of a child actor because she believed in my success. I’m so grateful for that. I’ll never be able to express how much her belief in me meant and still means to me. Hopefully, I can become successful enough one day and treat her to something really extravagant to try and repay her. That would be my biggest wish. She definitely will be the first person I thank when I win my Oscar!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

There’s so many people I would love to have the honor to chat with. I really can’t name just one so I’ll cheat and give a few for their own respective reason. I would love to meet with Bo Burnham, obviously because he’s an absolute legend. Bo is so incredibly inspiring to me. If I ever feel unmotivated I watch a Bo Burnham special. I also would love to meet Greta Gerwig obviously because she’s a genius. Her work in lady bird is subtly perfect. She seems so great to work with. Hopefully one day! And lastly because 13 year old me is forcing me to say it…. Justin Bieber. Self-explanatory.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Instagram @KatieGKelly.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

Thank you so much for having me. Getting to tell some of my stories was so much fun!

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